Mainichi: “‘Prison camps for Brazilians’: Foreign kids in Japan being ushered into special education.” Perpetuates the Japan-“educated” NJ underclass


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Hi Blog. What follows are two articles that should make you shudder, especially if you have children in Japan’s education system. Here we have kids being treated by Japanese schools as low-IQ “disabled” students just for not being proficient in Japanese language or culture! (Imagine what would happen if ESL teachers in Japan tried to make the case in public that many Japanese are mentally-deficient because they can’t learn English proficiently!)

To make things even more abhorrent, according to a Mainichi headline below, they’re putting these NJ children to work in “prison camps” instead of educating them. This is not only violates the spirit of Japan’s Basic Education Law (or Kyouiku Kihon Hou — which, note, ONLY guarantees a compulsory education to kokumin, or citizens), but also violates once again Japan’s child labor laws. And it creates and perpetuates the underclass of NJ children “educated” in Japan.

There is so much wrong going on here, and I’m glad the Mainichi exposed it. Debito Arudou Ph.D.

PS:  How about this latest permutation of the NJ “Blame Game” from a school vice principal cited below? “When foreigners increase in number, the learning progress of Japanese students is delayed. As far as is possible, (foreign students) should go to classes to be taught one on one.”  So now the presence of foreign classmates hinder Japanese students from getting an education?  Do these “educators” actually have modern training in how education happens?


‘Prison camps for Brazilians’: Foreign kids in Japan being ushered into special education
September 4, 2019 (Mainichi Japan), courtesy of Baud

PHOTO CAPTION: A Peruvian boy, 17, collects data from a questionnaire as part of his work training in Nagoya. He is currently enrolled in a high-school-level special education class, and is looking for employment. (Mainichi/Haruna Okuyama) (Image partially modified)

Many foreign children in Japan are being placed in special education against their wishes amid a lack of consensus building with schools and doctors as they have trouble understanding Japanese.

【Related】High ratio of foreign students put in special education after sitting IQ tests in Japanese

【Related】Survey reveals barriers to foreign-born students trying to enter Japan high schools

The finding comes in spite of a notice issued by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology in 2013 regarding where children with disabilities should study, which states that “the opinions of the child and their parents must be respected as far as is possible.”

In one case, a 14-year-old Brazilian girl who was born in Japan and is now in her second year of junior high school was placed in a special education class for her first four years of elementary school, without her or her mother being given a sufficient explanation.

The girl’s mother came to Japan about 15 years ago, and soon afterward she began working at a car parts factory for about 11 hours a day. She didn’t have enough time to check on her daughter’s schoolwork, so she asked a home tutor to do so. One day, when the girl was in her fourth year of elementary school, it emerged that she couldn’t do multiplication. When the girl was asked, “Don’t you learn that in school?” she replied, “We dig for potatoes at school.”

The school maintained that it was matching education to the level of the children, and argued, “We received a signature when she was enrolled.” Thinking back, the girl’s mother remembered signing a document saying that her daughter would enter a class in which difficult topics would be taught to the students individually. There was no IQ test or other screening method carried out in advance, and the girl’s mother thought that she would be the same as other students, with the school teaching her the subjects she wasn’t good at.

PHOTO CAPTION: This image taken in Nagoya shows memos a doctor presented to the mother of a 6-year-old boy who had taken an IQ test to judge whether he should enter a special education class. (Mainichi/Haruna Okuyama)

When it came to study, however, the girl was taught hardly anything. Later, when she moved schools and took an IQ test in the sixth grade, she was judged to have the intellectual ability of about a 6- or 7-year old. In junior high school, she has remained in a special education class.

A Brazilian woman in her 20s who has already graduated described these special education classes as “prison camps for Brazilians,” as she has seen many friends from her country as well as children being urged to join such classes.

One 8-year-old Brazilian boy now in his third year of elementary school was advised to enter a special education class in the summer of 2017 when he was in his first year of school on the grounds that he stood up and walked about during class. During an IQ test, he was found to have an IQ commensurate with his age, but was judged to have a slightly lower level of Japanese language ability. His mother stressed that he should attend a Japanese language class at school, but his teacher stood firm, saying it was an “intellectual issue.”

The discussions continued, and the boy entered his second year of elementary school. He got a new teacher, and stopped walking around in class. The talk of him going into special education subsequently ceased. The boy’s mother feels that his first teacher was trying to get her son put in special education due to an inability to instruct him.

When approached by the Mainichi Shimbun, the school’s vice principal responded, “We decide whether or not a student goes into special education based on objective data such as hospital tests, and obtain parental consent.” But the vice principal divulged, “When foreigners increase in number, the learning progress of Japanese students is delayed. As far as is possible, (foreign students) should go to classes to be taught one on one.”

Even when it is recognized that a child has an intellectual disability, there are cases in which they are not given sufficient explanations about IQ tests.

One 17-year-old Peruvian national now living in Nagoya was given an IQ test when he entered elementary school, and was diagnosed as having a slight intellectual disability. An IQ test he took in Peru had produced the same result, so his mother did not object to him being enrolled in a special education class. But the Japanese doctor who saw him went no further than providing a verbal opinion. In Peru, his mother had received a diagnosis of 2 to 3 A4-sized pages, and so she asked for more, saying, “I want documentation explaining the diagnosis.”

Upon completion of the diagnosis, she saw the “paperwork” via a nurse, and was lost for words. It consisted merely of two leafs of memo paper, containing basic phrases written in the simple hiragana script: “Intelligence test, about 4 years old.” “Special education, slight delay.”

(Japanese original by Haruna Okuyama, City News Department)

外国からきた子どもたち 小4、掛け算も教わらず 支援学級「ブラジル人収容所」
毎日新聞2019年9月3日 東京朝刊





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High ratio of foreign students put in special education after sitting IQ tests in Japanese
September 3, 2019 (Mainichi Japan)

PHOTO CAPTION: Takeshi Kayo, 15, who struggled to understand Japanese and was diagnosed as having a developmental disorder, studies for high school entrance exams at a cram school in the suburban city of Fussa in Tokyo in June 2019. (Mainichi/Haruna Okuyama)

TOKYO — Some foreign children in special education in Japan may have been mistakenly diagnosed as having intellectual or other disabilities due to low scores on their IQ tests because they couldn’t understand Japanese, experts have pointed out.

【Related】Foreign kids in Japan relying on volunteers for language support
【Related】10,400 foreign kids lack Japanese language education amid instructor shortfall

Among public elementary and junior high school students in 25 Japanese cities and towns that have a large population of foreign nationals, more than twice the percentage of all students enrolled in special education classes are foreign children, a freedom of information request filed with the education ministry and other sources revealed.

A survey conducted by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology in February 2017 showed that 25 cities and towns that are part of a colloquium of municipalities where many foreign nationals reside called “Gaikokujin Shuju Toshi Kaigi,” 5.37% of foreign children at public elementary and junior high schools were found to be in special education classes, compared to 2.54% of all students at those schools. The results were compiled of foreign children who were in special education classes as of May 2016. The education ministry had not publicly released the survey results or even revealed that it had conducted the survey, saying “it was an internal survey of just some municipalities.”

The situation in May 2019 had also been surveyed in Ota, Gunma Prefecture; Ueda, Nagano Prefecture; Minokamo, Gifu Prefecture; the cities of Yokkaichi and Iga, Mie Prefecture; the cities of Toyohashi and Shinshiro, Aichi Prefecture; and Soja, Okayama Prefecture. The Mainichi Shimbun used the latest data for these eight cities, and calculated the percentage of foreign children in special education classes. The result showed that 5.37% (584 children out of 10,876) of foreign students were enrolled in special education classes, which was over twice the 2.54% (8,725 children out of 343,808) of students who were enrolled in special education classes out of the entire student population in those cities.

In all 25 cities and towns, the ratio of foreign children in special education classes was higher than the ratio of all students in special education classes, with foreign students comprising nearly 20% of special education classes in Soja, Iga, and Shinshiro, at 19.35%, 18.31% and 17.78%, respectively. Foreign students in the 25 cities and towns make up about 15% of those in all of Japan, and it is believed that the trend is similar in the rest of the country.

Whether a student is placed in a special education class depends on several criteria, including IQ tests. Because IQ tests are generally administered in Japanese, it is possible that the IQs of foreign students are not being assessed accurately. An official at the Soja Municipal Government said, “Enrollment in special education classes is the result of evaluating (foreign) students in the same way as Japanese students, but we recognize that the high rate of foreign students (in special education) is something that must be addressed. We’d like to analyze the results (of the survey).”

Yu Abe, the director of Yotsuya Yui Clinic in Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ward, which administers IQ tests in not just Japanese but in Spanish and Portuguese as well, points out that IQ tests have questions similar to those such as “Who founded the Kamakura shogunate?” and “When is the Tanabata festival?” which put the test-taker at a disadvantage if they are not familiar with Japanese culture. Says Abe, “It is difficult to determine if something is due to a disability, a Japanese language proficiency issue or a combination of those things. My hope is that educators expand the possibilities of support for students. For example, if a student has subjects they are good in, such as math or English, they can stay in the standard class, and receive extra assistance in Japanese language and social studies in Japanese language support classes.”

(Japanese original by Haruna Okuyama and Tomoyuki Hori, City News Department)

外国籍率2倍 IQ検査、日本語力影響か 集住25市町
毎日新聞2019年9月1日 大阪朝刊



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18 comments on “Mainichi: “‘Prison camps for Brazilians’: Foreign kids in Japan being ushered into special education.” Perpetuates the Japan-“educated” NJ underclass

  • Moral of the story? If a Japanese kid has an NJ parent, they better not speak anything BUT Japanese to that kid at home, or they are going to call your kid disabled.


    We all know what this is;
    Japanese schools are teaching to tests.
    Tests are scheduled.
    Can’t keep up in class because of language issues? Well, there’s no way the Japanese education system is going to critically review itself and discover that there is more to education than testing, is it?
    This is top-down authoritarian Japan! All educators are cogs in the machine! No one is going to rock that boat.
    It must be the kids fault, and if the kid is NJ? Well just fuck ’em, right?

  • This is not only heinous, the police should investigate and push charges.

    Unfortunately, since it happened to Non Japanese children…
    I’m not even being ironic, it’s a textbook case. Badly and unjustly treat minorities, then don’t give a damn because hey, NJ. And we’re talking about children’s development; this is nothing short of tragic.

    I’m afraid they won’t even need to sweep it under the rug, because it won’t even get that much publicity in mainstream media. On the other hand, I’m sad to predict this will almost certainly be in Debito’s “ten most important issues for foreign nationals in 2019”.

  • Just for comparison;
    These NJ could go somewhere like America and give their kids the American Dream of becoming President (just like the current incumbent), or NJ could go to Japan where not being 100% Japanese will see them diagnosed with learning disabilities and reduced to a future of menial manual work.
    Anyone need to think that over?

  • I imagine I’m going to get a lot of flack for taking this stance, but I for the most part agree with the vice principal cited. (Bear in mind that I have an overall very negative opinion of most “educators” in the Japanese school system. I’m just going to say it in advance–I am not an apologist for the system in general.) I would also agree his wording does come across a lot like blame gaming.

    However, here’s how I’m looking at it. The minority kids in question here (stop labeling them as “foreigners”) are, of course, a minority. Further, they, for whatever reason, have significantly lower levels of Japanese language ability. Given those set of circumstances, it makes sense to place them in a special class intended for children who cannot understand Japanese as well as their peers. To leave them in with the rest of the class would create a situation in which either A) the flow of the entire class has to constantly be interrupted to explain the meaning of words or how to read/write characters; or B) the few students who need such explanations will be left behind. I think this is the point the VP was trying to make.

    I would certainly agree that all parents should be free to raise their children as they see fit, and if they want to pass on a second language or knowledge of a second culture to their children, they have every right to do so.

    On the flipside, it seems rather strange to me to raise a child in Japan without making sure that child is taught Japanese and Japanese culture (and I do not mean “Japanese culture” in the top-down monolithic sense that Wajin use the word to exclude or control others). Unless extraordinary circumstances prevented the parents from allowing the child to gain such knowledge, I think it’s almost fair to say that failing to ensure the child receives such education is a huge disservice to the child. “I was born and raised in Japan, but I don’t know when tanabata is” is hard to swallow. If the child is that culturally ignorant, he/she is obviously going to have a hard time communicating with and building successful relationships with her/his peers.

    Of course, in the case of children who were born overseas and immigrated with their parents into Japan, they did not have the chance to absorb Japanese and Japanese culture from birth, so it’s reasonable that they might be behind their peers.

    Regardless, it seems to me that it would be a good thing for such children to be given individual attention, or if possible, placed in a remedial Japanese language class intended to bring them up to speed as soon as possible. I hope it goes without saying that the individual attention or language instruction they need should not be based on racist balderdash about how children who don’t have magical “Japanese blood” are incapable of understanding Japanese the same way as “pure Japanese” do and thus require a dumbed-down, inaccurate explanation of Japanese grammar and such.

    That all being said, of course, the complete joke that is the Japanese education system is clearly failing them. First, IQ tests? Seriously? Being administered by bureaucrats? Well, I wish I could say I’m surprised. That the entire notion of an IQ test is subject to plenty of debate completely aside, even if we were going to administer one, at the very least a psychologist specializing in early childhood development should be in charge of all of it. “This minority child didn’t do well on this ridiculous arbitrary test we made up, so we’re going to put her/him in special education classes instead of making a JSL class for kids with these kinds of needs” is just about the most preposterous thing on the planet.

    I hate to say it, but it all just goes to show–if you’re going to live in Japan, it is of the utmost importance that you become fluent in Japanese as soon as possible and avoid relying on anything “for ‘foreigners'” to the greatest extent possible.

    — Of course. But I’m not sure we read the articles the same way.

    1) I doubt that anyone is suggesting, either here or in the articles, that people should be, or grow up, willfully ignorant of Japan or the society they live in. One of education’s goals is to help people cope with society, after all.

    2) I don’t think that anyone is suggesting that non-native speakers DON’T need some assistance with coming up to speed in the lingua franca. What’s objectionable here is that they are treating non-natives as if they are somehow, for want of a better word, retarded. And they’re not being put in a special additional class to help with fluency. They’re being segregated entirely from their peers. And worse yet, put to work instead of being educated.

    3) As for the agreement with the VP, non-native speakers have been put into classes with everyone else in other countries (and in my personal experience), and everyone has coped just fine. Don’t fall for the sweaty-palmed bureaucrats’ constant alarmism that having to explain (which happens surprisingly rarely when most students, especially in Japanese classrooms, just keep their heads down and listen) hinders everyone else. I bet in practice that the impact is minimal.

    4) Finally, Tanabata is not a “thing” all over Japan, by the way. It’s not much of an event in Hokkaido, for example. And as you say, measuring IQ based upon knowledge of that is absurd.

    Those are my responses for now. Anyone else?

    • My sister-in-law and her family went to Texas for her husband’s work. Her two Japanese kids went to an ‘normal’ American elementary school.
      The first six months there were lots of blank looks, frowns, and sometimes tears.
      But after that they soon became pretty good at English, and are now just as fluent as native speakers of the same age. Why?
      Because US educators aren’t obsessed with tests and testing. It didn’t matter that these kids were initially hopeless at English beyond greetings and ‘my name is…’, the teachers were making education interactive, communicative and fun; the kids could try and make mistakes and it didn’t matter, so they had no fear of failure.
      Try, make mistakes, it doesn’t matter; try doing that in a Japanese school! The ‘escalator’ system would shudder to a halt!

      But hey! If Japan Inc. can’t entice enough NJ labor to come to Japan to do KKK jobs with the appeal of no-spouse 5 year visas, well, it looks like Japan Inc. is just going to label the kids of NJ who are already here as having learning disabilities and make them do the work as ‘education’, right?

      Won’t be long until NJ elementary school kids are being sent to do the Fukushima cleanup at this rate…

    • When I was in primary school a refugee girl from Kosovo entered our class at some point and she initially could only understand Albanian. She caught up on the language of instruction – which was German, by the way – within a few month by just listening and later interacting with us.

      If your age is single digit, you basically have a language sponge as brain, so absolutely no need for special drill camps to “protect” natively speaking students from a non existing nuisance.

    • My family moved to Spain when I was five. I went to the local school and joined regular classes. I don’t remember it too well, but after a couple of years I was functionally a native speaker like all the other kids.

      It really isn’t brain science, although I could see a case for kids having extra classes to catch up with the reading/writing system here.

  • Andrew in Saitama says:

    My take:

    Regulations probably vary by prefecture and/or district. I know for a fact that kids in my area CAN’T be placed in a special needs class without both certification from a doctor AND parental permission. There are plenty of ADHD, academically handicapped and other slow learners in regular classes.

    As we all know, IQ tests contain cultural biases. Not to mention that taking test in a language you do not read well is probably not going to let you score well.

    And when is Tanabata? It depends on where you live!

    Often, foreign learners of Japanese are thrown in with the native speakers to do lessons (and, unsurprisingly underperform) on classical literature, hyakunin isshu, calligraphy etc. when they could and should be taken out for remedial tuition in functional daily language.

    And I have noticed a distinct pattern of NJ kids being labelled as “difficult” or “problem” while Yamato types for whom “arsehole” would be an appropriate label get mollycoddled.

    Just my ¥2.

    • Agree with all of this.
      In particular the last paragraph. How many times have I seen NJ or kids with one NJ parent encouraged by peers and teachers to act ‘the class clown’ in order to satisfy some bizarre idea that NJ are all ‘loud, raucous, uncouth and bad-mannered’ (as compared with the ‘wajin’ who are all ‘reading the air’). And then ‘proper’ Japanese males (and it is always the males) encouraged to indulge in ‘boys will be boys’ disruptive behavior (even up to university age; witness Ishihara’s reaction to the Waseda University Hiking (rape) Club), while girls are expected to be meek and homely.
      Gender stereotyping at its finest.
      Combined with an education system solely reliant on tests that punishes critical thinking and what do you get?
      The least imaginative, least creative, least questioning and least intellectually curious males are constantly rewarded and heaped with positive affirmation during their developmental years leading to the current state of the nation; entitled old men who are incapable of offering solutions and dead set against any change taking place.

      One of the things that always slams this in my face is the poor design of domestic household goods in Japan, mostly my vacuum cleaner. Since engineering is a subject for boys in Japan, it was designed by men. But since housework is always done by mothers, sisters and wives, the engineers are (in a very Japanese ‘ometanashi’ kind of way) designing what they think woman need. Result? I have a clumsy clunky poorly balanced vacuum cleaner over-loaded with meaningless ‘cool’ features that makes my arm ache if I have to use it for any real length of time. I’m sure it looked pretty good to the Panasonic boys who never vacuumed in their lives when they pushed it back and forwards for a couple of moments in the R&D department.

      Another is toilets, undoubtedly designed by japanese male engineers who have never had to scrub a toilet clean in their lives, hence all the impossible to clean nooks and crannies. Hopeless.

      • This- And then ‘proper’ Japanese males (and it is always the males) encouraged to indulge in ‘boys will be boys’ disruptive behavior
        I taught at a low level semmon gakko where the one foreign student, a Chinese, worked hard and did his best to answer while all the other guys dossed around.
        He became mates with them and stopped talking or trying. Really obviously dumbing down to their level to fit in with the “cool” chinpira teens.

        I complained to the school mildly. They cut my hours. Standards fell.

        • Baud, I hear you on this.

          These days it’s the norm for the students to essentially be thought of on the same level as customers. It is not your job as the instructor to bring them up; instead, you teach to their level. In other words, the students set the standards according to their own motivation (or more often, lack thereof). There is an unspoken expectation that you will be acquiescent in this process.

          The sad part, of course, is that the students who are having a hard time but are serious about trying to improve get left in the dust. When this situation is allowed to progress completely, it ultimately results in a situation known as gakkyū hōkai (学級崩壊), a “collapse of the class.”

          I read a book a while back written by a veteran teacher who analyzed the factors and circumstances that give rise to this, but it all kind of boils down to 1) the student being given “customer” status, and 2) typical (Wajin) complete absence of responsibility at all levels of the hierarchy.

          “You’re the teacher; it’s your responsibility to motivate them and guide them. If you can’t do that and get them under control, there must be some inadequacy in your instruction. Your personal ability as an instructor is the sole factor in determining whether they behave appropriately” sums up the typical attitude. Obviously, this is not grounded in reality.

          Institutions that are more serious about producing results obviously take more responsibility and shut down disruptive students. (I guess we’re supposed to believe their teachers are magically more effective.) Those that do not are ultimately not concerned with the rigor of instruction and thus punish instructors who seek administration’s cooperation in improving the classroom environment, seeing it as a nuisance coming from the teacher rather than a problem that needs to be dealt with. It’s pretty disgusting to have to deal with it if you’re serious about trying to give good lessons. That’s where being a union member proves helpful. They can’t punish you for speaking out if the union’s got your back, and they can ignore you as an individual, but they cannot refuse to deal with the union.

          • This is absolutely correct.
            I wonder how much of it is due to teachers effectively giving up now that the use of physical violence to control students is off the table?
            When I first came to Japan the ‘war in the classroom’ was raging and it seemed that almost every week a former student returned to their school to attack a teacher with a knife or something. You never hear about that anymore.

  • Brooks Slaybaugh says:

    I worked at a school like that. The union told me that I should just leave. Toxic place with a passive-aggressive boss on medication for some mental illness. Often she would not even talk to me and the Canadian had to be the go-between. Two Brits who said I looked down on them and that was enough to not give me a new contract. I tried to teach and was not one to be an clown in class. Why does English always have to be fun? It was like the former Soviet Union, where the masses would say that they pretend to work and the bosses pretend to pay us.

  • Published merely two days ago!

    Nice to see someone I have absolutely no connection with whatsoever agreeing with me- it means that they’ve looked at the same facts and independently reached the same conclusions. Therefore, we are not crazy (or we are both crazy in exactly the same way despite all our variables being different, and seriously, what are the chances of that?).

  • Why is knowing the date of an event part of an IQ/intelligence test? It has nothing to do with intelligence. You just tell them the date and the name and then they know it. They might forget it, if it is as unimportant as tanabata is though.

    That is why my daughter is being taught English first. So she hopefully won’t become institutionally bound by stupidity.


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